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Wed, 21 Feb 2018
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Drought

Fire

More than 100,000 acres destroyed in Alabama by 900-plus wildfires since October 1

Wildfire
Officials say more than 900 wildfires have destroyed over 100,000 acres across the state this month amid an ongoing drought that has no signs of ending anytime soon.

Interim State Forester Gary Cole said in a statement Monday that extremely dry conditions have created favorable environments for wildfires during the past several weeks.

"The drought creates a dangerous scenario where wildfire can quickly spread out of control, destroying forestland and threatening homes," Cole said.

Gov. Robert Bentley on Oct. 12 signed a drought emergency declaration, putting 46 counties under the no burn order.

Cole says that order will remain in effect until weather conditions have significantly improved. Citing a 10-day forecast of low potential for rainfall, Cole says there is "no relief in sight."

Violators of the burn ban could face a fine of up to $500 and up to six months in jail if convicted.

Source: Associated Press

Arrow Up

Charity calls on DiCaprio to step down from UN climate change role

DiCaprio
© Olivier Marteau on Twitter
A rainforest charity calls on the star to either denounce his connection to individuals involved in a Malaysian corruption scandal and return laundered money he allegedly received or give up his role.

In perhaps the biggest attack on Leonardo DiCaprio's environmental credibility, a rainforest charity on Friday called on the actor to give up his title as UN Messenger of Peace with a special focus on climate change.

At a press conference in London, the Bruno Manser Funds offered DiCaprio an ultimatum: either he renounce his connections to the "politically exposed persons" at the center of the multi-billion dollar 1MDB Malaysian corruption scandal now being investigated by the U.S. Justice Department and return corrupt money he allegedly received or resign from the position he was given by UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon in 2014.

"If DiCaprio is unwilling to come clean, we ask him to step down as UN Messenger for Peace for climate change, because he simply lacks the credibility for such an important role," said Lukas Straumann, director of the Switzerland-based charity, which has a particular focus on deforestation in Malaysia.

DiCaprio is alleged to have received millions of dollars diverted from the 1MDB sovereign wealth fund for his role as star and producer of The Wolf of Wall Street, alleged by the DOJ to have been funded by stolen Malaysian money and produced by Red Granite, co-founded by Riza Aziz, the stepson of the Malaysian prime minister and a major figure in a DOJ filing. He is also alleged to have received laundered 1MDB money for his charity, the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, from his former close associate Jho Low, the controversial Malaysian businessman at the heart of the scandal.

Moon

Decades-long megadrought may hit US Southwest, drying it to the bone

Folsom Lake reservoir
© Mark Ralston / AFP
Boat docks sit empty on dry land, as Folsom Lake reservoir near Sacramento stands at only 18 percent capacity, as the severe drought continues in California on September 17, 2015.
The American Southwest has surely seen some drought, but things may turn sour, or should we say 'even drier'? Scientists from Cornell University say there's a high chance that a decades-long 'megadrought' is coming by the end of this century.

The scientists, led by atmospheric researcher Toby Ault, have just published their findings in Science Advances journal.

It should be noted that 'megadrought' isn't just a scary-sounding word, it is an existing term: an extreme, bone-dry time that can last for over 35 years.

"In some ways, it's as simple as less rainfall and hotter weather," Ault says as quoted by Popular Mechanics. "Basically the risk of a megadrought depends critically on the balance of soil moisture at the soil's surface, and that's a tug-of-war between evaporation from hotter weather and the supply of moisture through precipitation."

The study suggests that the production of greenhouse gases, if carried on at the current rate, could cause the megadrought, and the chances are very high, 70 to 99 percent - which makes it "virtually certain," in the scientists' words.

Comment: Man made global warming didn't cause the megadrought in the 16th century, and it's not going to be the cause of a future one. Any solutions involving that bogus claim are useless. This is not to say that such kinds of megadroughts are not on the way. They very well may be, but the earth changes we are seeing are not so black and white as some pseudo-climate scientists would like them to be.


Bizarro Earth

Severe drought impacts New England states: Bears are bolder, mosquitoes are multiplying and fish are stressed

black bear

Beyond hurting crops and helping the tourism industry, New England's hot, dry summer also is affecting the region's wildlife. Bears are getting bolder, mosquitoes are multiplying and stream-dwelling fish are stressed.
Bears are bolder, mosquitoes are multiplying and stream-dwelling fish are stressed. Beyond hurting crops and helping the tourism industry, New England's hot, dry summer also is affecting the region's wildlife.

All six New England states are experiencing at least moderate drought, according to the National Drought Mitigation Center, with severe patches in all but Vermont and pockets of extreme drought in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

Low rainfall also means low stream flow levels across the region. The U.S. Geological Survey says all six states have areas exhibiting moderate hydrologic drought, with severe spots in Massachusetts and one extreme area in Maine.

Low and warm water stresses fish, such as trout and salmon, forcing them to seek out deeper pools or spring holes. On Friday, the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection closed portions of the West Branch Farmington River and the Farmington River to fishing through Sept. 15 after several fish kills.

Arrow Down

U.S. Senators trying to muzzle climate change skeptics

Muzzling Free Speech
© The Right Planet
Nineteen U.S. senators are working to destroy free speech and silence dissent, defying the Constitution they swore to defend and uphold. Senators Harry Reid, Tim Kaine, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and fifteen other Democrats took to the Senate floor last month to demonize their 'enemies list' of fossil fuel companies, think tanks and journalists for having the temerity to disagree with their views. They are also proposing a Congressional Resolution to formally disapprove of the actions of those who disagree with them.

Climate change happens to be the subject of their action, but the topic is irrelevant.

As President Harry Truman, himself a Democrat, said, "Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear."

That path of repressive measures has already been blazed. Seventeen attorneys general representing fifteen states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands formed "AGs United for Clean Power" and are threatening legal action and huge fines against anyone who declines to believe in a scientific theory which remains in dispute among respected scientists.

The Daily Signal reports, "This comes on top of U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch admitting that the Justice Department is discussing the possibility of pursing civil actions against climate change deniers, and that she has already referred it to the FBI to consider whether or not it meets the criteria for which federal law enforcement could take action."

Bizarro Earth

Feds see 2018 shortage in Lake Mead water supply to southwest U.S.

drought lake mead water levels
© Jae C. Hong/Associated Press
File photo October 14, 2015. Amid an historic drought in the West, federal water managers are due to release an annual projection of surface levels at Lake Mead that will determine whether water deliveries from the crucial Colorado River reservoir will be cut next year to Arizona, Nevada, and California
Initial shortages not likely to impact Havasu, mayor says

Amid punishing drought, federal water managers projected Tuesday that — by a very narrow margin— the crucial Lake Mead reservoir on the Colorado River won't have enough water to make full deliveries to Nevada and Arizona in 2018.

A 24-month projection, issued on a day the largest reservoir on the closely controlled and monitored river was 36 percent full, showed the surface level of the lake behind Hoover Dam is expected to clear the trigger point this year to avoid a shortage declaration in 2017.

The margin is expected to be just under 4 feet, or almost 228 billion gallons of water. Mandatory shortages begin to take effect once levels dip below 1,075 feet.

For 2018, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation projects missing the mark by under a foot, which would trigger a shortage declaration, cuts to Arizona's water allocation by 11.4 percent, and cuts to Nevada's water flow by 4.3 percent.

That would be enough water to serve more than 600,000 homes a year in Arizona, and about 26,000 in Nevada.

Info

Mexican archaeologist says Teotihuacán was built to worship water

Pyramid of the Moon
© emerzel21/iStockphoto
The ancient Pyramid of the Moon, the second-largest pyramid in Teotihuacan, Mexico.
Perched on a plateau surrounded by mountains some 30 miles northeast of Mexico City, the city of Teotihuacán reached its peak between A.D. 200 and 450, when it was home to as many as 100,000 people. In A.D. 600, Teotihuacán was mysteriously abandoned, leaving future generations of scholars to puzzle for centuries over the secrets of the ancient city, its magnificent pyramids and its people. Now, in what may be a major breakthrough in the study of Teotihuacán, one archaeologist argues that the city was likely built around the worship of a single essential substance: water.

For centuries, archaeologists and other scholars have struggled to unlock the secrets of the ancient city of Teotihuacán. After reaching its peak just as the Roman Empire was in decline, the city was largely destroyed around A.D. 600 by fire and looting, perhaps as the result of a civil war or enemy invasion. By A.D. 750, the surviving members of Teotihuacán's population seem to have been absorbed into neighboring cultures, or to have abandoned the once-great city for their ancestral homelands.

Because they had no complex form of writing, relatively little is known about the founders and inhabitants of Teotihuacán. Archaeologists haven't discovered any carved slabs inscribed with characters, or any royal tombs. This lack of artifacts contrasts sharply with the wealth of evidence left behind by the Maya, who also built impressive pyramids in their cities in Central America.

It was the Aztecs who found the ruins of Teotihuacán in the 1300s and gave the city its name, which means "the place where men become gods" in Nahuatl. It was also the Aztecs who linked Teotihuacán's two largest pyramid—the Pyramid of the Sun and the Pyramid of the Moon—to their own story of creation. But according to Verónica Ortega, the Aztecs may have had the story wrong.

Bizarro Earth

Drought ravaged Lesotho forced to import food as vital water reserves exported to South Africa

drought Lesotho

Shephard Ts'olo Lesofe secretly takes his sheep down to drink from the controversial Katse dam in Lesotho, which only provides water to South Africa
For farmer Mohlakoane Molise, the view of the enormous Katse dam from his smallholding high in the mountains of Lesotho taunts him daily.

His country is suffering through its worst drought in 35 years, but the vast and vital water reserves remain out of reach, destined instead for export to neighbouring South Africa.

"I am very angry about that water, because it could benefit us, we could use it to water the crops when there is a drought. But that's not happening," the 65-year-old widower told AFP.

Kneeling in front of his round, thatch-roofed hut, he sorted through his maize, examining each grain, one-by-one.

The operation didn't take long. His total annual harvest filled just two large sacks, in place of the usual dozen.

According to the World Food Programme (WFP), the 2016 harvest for Lesotho's primary crop maize is estimated at 25,000 tonnes, a dramatic drop from last year's 78,000-tonne haul.

Instead, the mountainous kingdom - - entirely landlocked by South Africa - - must import food from its larger neighbour.

Sun

Iran's disappearing giant saltwater Lake Urmia turns blood-red

Lake Urmia
© earthobservatory.nasa.gov
A drought of epic proportions at Lake Urmia has brought the Iranian UNESCO site to the brink of disappearing off the face of the Earth, and is turning its once blue waters blood-red.

While once Urmia spanned an area five times larger than Hong Kong, its volume has decreased dramatically since 1972.

A study by hydrology experts at the University of California in 2014 painted the picture of a dying natural resource, highlighting how desiccation, or drying, had reduced the 5,000 sq km (1,930 sq mile) lake by almost 90 percent.
Changes to Lake Urmia
Its catastrophic demise has been compared to the loss of the Aral Sea, where poor irrigation and farming practices contributed to it drying up almost completely.

Scientists working with NASA's Earth Observatoryhave explained that as water levels drop during the hot summer months, microscopic algae and bacteria become more apparent, causing the unusual hue.


Bizarro Earth

What happens when the water's gone? Ogallala aquifer in western U.S. is being drained away

elida new mexico wind turbines

Bedsprings once served as a corral near Elida, New Mexico, where turbines tap into the High Plains’ unrelenting wind, generating new income for farmers who have lost earnings as their wells dry up.
The Ogallala aquifer turned the region into America's breadbasket. Now it, and a way of life, are being drained away.

"Whoa," yells Brownie Wilson, as the steel measuring tape I am feeding down the throat of an irrigation well on the Kansas prairie gets away from me and unspools rapidly into the depths below.

The well, wide enough to fall into, taps into the Ogallala aquifer, the immense underground freshwater basin that makes modern life possible in the dry states of Middle America. We have come to assess the aquifer's health. The weighted tip hits the water at 195 feet, a foot lower than a year ago. Dropping at this pace, it is nearing the end of its life. "Already this well does not have enough water left to irrigate for an entire summer," Wilson says.

It is three days into January, and we are alone on an endlessly flat expanse surrounded by 360 degrees of pale blue horizon, not a cloud, not a tree in sight. We are 4,000 feet above sea level, the reason this is called the High Plains. The incessant wind that blew topsoil from the Dust Bowl east to the Atlantic Ocean and onto the decks of ships during the 1930s is unseasonably calm, although Wilson's SUV is packed to the roof with gear for every possible weather calamity. On the field behind us, the spindly steel skeleton of a center-pivot irrigation sprinkler stretches out over brown earth like a giant sci-fi insect, dormant until spring.